Frits Gåvertsson: "Emersonian Perfectionism in John Williams’s Butcher’s Crossing"

Högre seminariet i estetik

Frits Gåvertsson, Lunds universitet: "Emersonian Perfectionism in John Williams’s Butcher’s Crossing"

I argue that John Williams’s novel Butcher’s Crossing (1960) can be profitably read as an investigation into the ‘liveability’ of what Stanley Cavell (1990: 1-32, 12, 62) calls Emersonian Perfectionism, i.e. the version of ‘a dimension or tradition of the moral life that spans the course of Western thought and concerns what used to be called the state of one’s soul’ (Cavell 1990: 2) such as it manifests itself in the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. A reading of the novel along these lines provides insight not only into Emerson’s ethical thinking but also on several central issues surrounding the relationship between fiction and moral philosophy such as reader engagement, moral understanding, the relation between moral theory and practice, and the moral benefits of literature from a perfectionist perspective.

Wlliams J. (2007 [1960]) Butcher’s Crossing New York NY.: New York Review of Books.
Cavell S. (1990) Conditions handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism Chicago Ill.: University of Chicago Press.